Can you describe what emotions you are experiencing right now? This is the question Tiffany Watt Smith asks her TED audience to sensitize them on how easy or how hard it is to put words on our emotions. This is a fantastic presentation to conjure the vocabulary of emotions and an esl psychology lesson.
Do you think words can really describe how we feel? If you watched the movie Inside Out, or are knowledgeable about the scientific litterature on emotions, you may have heard that emotions have been broken down into 6 basic forms: anger, fear, disgust, happiness, sadness and surprise. The first time I read this, I found it hugely oversimplified. I just couldn’t relate my own personal experience with this. Yet, these basic emotions seem to be the baseline for emotional researchers.
Smith challenges this simple view of emotional language. She looks across different languages and cultures to show the complexity and diversity of the words used to describe how we are feeling. She even suggests that the very existence of these words may allow us to feel things that people in other cultures don’t. She exposes a compelling and thought provoking-idea that words can shape how we feel. Before you start, be sure to download the Google docs included in this post. It has a preliminary list of emotions vocabulary words.
What emotion words do you know?
Do you think you are good at talking about how you feel?
The Video: TED The History of Human Emotion Discussion by Tiffany Watt Smith
I would break this presentation down into a series of snippets and begin by doing Tell Backs of each segment. In fact, if you have more basic students, I would stop at the 6 min mark and center a discussion on the vocabulary of emotions. However, for more advanced learners, I would go through the presentation as it digs much deeper into the topic of the history of emotions and may be very engaging for higher-level discussions.
What emotions does Smith talk about?
Can you give some examples of the emotional language of other cultures?
What stuck with you in Smith’s presentation?
Do you have words in your native language that describe feelings that don’t exist in English?
How are emotions viewed in your culture? Do you talk about them, or not?
What, according to you, is emotional intelligence?
Do you knit, run, read, eat, garden? Hobbies are acticities that we do for the sheer pleasure of doing them. They help us take time for ourselves. Whether they are sports related or a more relaxing activity, a hobby is something to enjoy. In other words, when you have given them a bit of time, you feel recharged and happy–as opposed to guilty or tired.
Personnally, I have more hobbies than I probably should. I love relaxing. I knit, paint, garden, cook, take long walks with my dog, read and write blogs. In fact, my hobbies help me channel a lot of creative energy. My husband on the other hand uses hobbies like obsesive video game playing to expell his stress. I’m not sure that it works though.
Moreover, not everybody nutures hobbies. In fact, in many cultures hobbies can be viewed as lazy or a waste of time–something you do when you are children or you want to avoid ‘real’ work. What do you think? Are hobbies healthy or a waste of time? In this Huffington Post article, the author develops the idea that there are good and not so good hobbies.
Is failure always a bad thing? I think we all know the answer to that. However, whether consciously or unconsciously, the fear of failure might be telling us a lot about who we are and how we can turn that fear into a constructive element in our lives. If you are in the mood for an introspective discussion, watch author Elizabeth Gilbert (“Eat, Pray, Love”) talk about what failure has done for her.
Do a tell back of the main points in Gilbert’s presentation.
Are there elements in Gilbert’s presentation that relate to your life?
Do you have successes and failures that have marked your life?
How have your successes and failures defined your path? In other words, where might you be today if things were different?
Do you have an activity that you love more than anything that transcends the need to succeed or the fear of failure?
Is it possible that we don’t have one true calling? That we have more than one talent? One gift? That is the question that Emilie Wapnick asks her TED audience. She is a self proclaimed “multipotentialite” which is to say, she has many potential careers and gifts.
I must say I got a little emotional watching this talk. I too am someone who is constantly looking for my one true thing only to feel disappointed in myself when I get interested in something new. It is a very freeing concept that my students loved to talk about…
What did you want to be when you grew up?
If it changed, why did it change?
Why is it ok for children to have many career paths, but adults must chose one?
Watch the video and gather some of the main themes and points.
Experience is a funny thing. When we don’t have it, we don’t always know it. We are in a state of “blissful ignorance.” What is blissful about ignorance you ask? Well mainly that we can go around judging things with a feeling of superiority and mastery.
Let’s consider a concrete example…
Ever stroll through the aisles of the supermarket, quietly contemplating dinner plans and peacefully reading labels only to be violently yanked out of your reverie by a screaming child? You know what I am talking about: the epic supermarket toddler meltdown. Oh yes, they cry they scream, either they want out, they want in. For goodness sake, what do they want?
I admit it, I judged the parents of those children. But now that I am a mother, I too have been the mother of a screaming toddler. Sometimes I reflect on how my perspective has changed and I feel guilty about my un-empathetic superior thoughts I had about those parents.
This lesson features a funny video about how non-parents see parents. I like the video because it is repetitive enough that students may be able to get the humour. As you may know, understanding humour in a foreign language is rather challenging, so any time I find something that can make people laugh, I like to use it.
But I feel the discussion lies beyond the video. I think it’s about how experience changes us. And how sometimes that very experience can have us looking as crazy as the people on the video.
Rather than have a pre-discussion as a warm up, I would use the video to get prime the participants’ thoughts.
The Video: What Parenting Sounds Like to Non-Parents
Can you think of a ‘before and after’ situation where experience made you change your perspective?
What events in your life (e.g. becoming a parent, changing jobs, moving to a foreign country) have changed the way you think about things?
Can you remember a scene in your life that made you look as crazy and the people in the video?
If you were going to make a video like this one, what would the topic be?
Even though I know how to stand up for myself, it is not my favorite thing to do. It will inevitably cause awkwardness perhaps even anger. I might be perceived and agressive or unreasonable.
Yet, we all have to deal with conflicting view points at some time or another. Perhaps some have to deal with it every day. Heck , some make a career of it.
That’s why I like this article from Thrive Global (Ariana Huffington‘s wellness publication). In it there are practical tips on how to deal with relationship conflict. The article is nicely organized, well supported and each part succinct. It makes for a great Tell Back article and probably a few anecdotes.
How are you with conflict? Are you more a fighter or lover?
Do you have any moments (perhaps not too personal) where you have had to stand up for yourself?
The Article: 9 Ways do Deal with Relationship Conflict
Take each of the 9 points and pull out the main recommendation
Are there any recommendations that you disagree with?
Are there any that you see yourself adopting?
Is there a pattern or something that each recommendation has in common?
I don’t know if any of you buy lottery tickets, but I don’t. I suppose my logical brain tells me that the chances are so low that I shouldn’t waste my money. Still, when the jackpot goes up high, I can’t help my thoughts wander to odd fantasies of what I would do if I had that much money.
I’ve often heard that we need billionaires because they create wealth for everyone. In the financial terms, this notion of trickle down economics is rooted in the idea that over taxing the wealthy will do more harm than good. Forbes magazine poses this very question and ask famous billionaire and philanthropist Bill Gates about the consequences of a wealth tax. The answer may surprise you.
This article is a vocabulary rich text, appropriate for intermediate to advanced learners.
What would you do if you were a billionaire?
Which billionaires are philanthropic (use their fortune to better the world)?
Do you think billionaires are a good thing or a bad thing?
The article–Forbes Bill Gates gets why people are doubting billionaires
Pull out the economic related vocabulary
Do a Tell Back of what Gates says about over taxing billionaires
The article is pretty intense, so I will leave it at those two points for now, but if you have a question suggestion, please don’t hesitate to add it to the comments.
Cats or dogs? Chocolate or ice cream? Making comparisons can ignite some interesting debates with the simplest of prompts.
Most of my posts include some sort of first language ressource to use as a launch pad or a vocabulary building tool. However, sometimes I like to see what words live spontaneously in the minds of my students.
Some of my more extraverted learners enjoy this because they do not have to struggle with the dual task of incorporating new words while stringing together meaning. Others find it utterly daunting because they have nothing to inspire their thoughts. Or the idea of just talking makes everything jam up inside.
In both cases, open ended questions can be either a good relief or a good challenge (that you can scaffold with various prompts if necessary).
Here is a good ressources to practice comparatives. The site features a ton questions organized in different themes and focuses, but I like this one because it contains a lot of variety and a relatively easy grammar element.